Gautam Ivatury is the Co-Founder and CEO of LendLedger, a decentralized network that connects data providers, lenders, and borrowers for secure, transparent, cost-effective, and innovative interactions.
LendLedger unlocks digital credit data on informal and small business borrowers, making it viable for lenders to offer trillions of dollars in loans to untapped segments. Gautam has been a pioneer in expanding financial access using technology for nearly two decades.
Gautam spoke to us about creating an inclusive model for business lending in emerging markets.
Describe the company for us.
Institutional lenders have strict lending requirements, including documented credit history. In emerging markets, many borrowers do not meet these requirements. Borrowers are forced to turn to family, friends, or local lenders who charge exorbitant rates. These inefficiencies exert huge downward pressure on the global economy and have created a $2.1 – $2.6 trillion lending gap.
To counteract this, we have developed LendLedger – next generation “plumbing” for lending markets. It’s the first decentralized network to enable more efficient, more affordable, and more inclusive lending in markets where most borrowers do not have a credit history. Built on decentralized blockchain technology, LendLedger brings together borrowers, data providers and lenders to create an open and secure global ecosystem.
How are you different?
LendLedger has a few key points of differentiation. Firstly, the platform does not require that the borrower or the lender hold crypto, allowing users to deal in fiat as they always have. Secondly, LendLedger is not simply a P2P platform, but rather it involves financial institutions. We aren’t just about giving people a credit score but rather forging the protocol for loans to get made on our platform.
Why will you do well?
- There is a multi-trillion dollar lending opportunity that is untapped as a result of these strict traditional institutional requirements. This is particularly an issue for the informal sector which accounts for up to 90% of employment and 50% of enterprise in many countries. As such, there is a huge need for accessible and transparent lending solutions that decentralize and democratize access to loans.
- Happy Loans (a lending platform we started last year that uses a basic version of LendLedger APIs) has already proven the huge opportunity for data-driven MSME (micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises) lending. In just over a year it has disbursed nearly $9 million to over 18,000 micro-enterprises across 400 cities in India.
- LendLedger builds on this momentum at a global scale, with an open and self-governing ecosystem that will enable the continued growth of this burgeoning lending model.
- We have a clearly defined roadmap and a seasoned team of experts, including our two co-founders who have started and scaled multiple inclusive fintech ventures including Happy Loans for nearly 20 years.
- Blockchain allows us to create a new architecture for how lending markets work. Each party controls the transfer of their encrypted data, eliminating the risks associated with a centralized intermediary. Lenders, data providers, and borrowers are connected in one reputation-building ecosystem, and every transfer across the network is publicly logged to a blockchain, an immutable ledger for transparency. Blockchain provides a system that is globally scalable.
Where are you based?
Our team is based in New York City, San Francisco and Mumbai.
When was the company launched?
The company was launched in 2017.
What have been your biggest wins to date?
We were thrilled to be invited to be a founding signatory of the Declaration on Responsible Digital Financial Services, created by a group set up by the World Bank’s IFC, and the Dutch and German governments. We’re also grateful to have attracted the support and interest of some of the world’s most recognized pioneers and innovators in fintech and financial inclusion, such as Nick Hughes (the founder of M-PESA) and Ashish Desai, Head of Product at India’s pioneering Aditya Birla Payments Bank.
Who are you trying to attract to your product?
Lenders, borrowers, and data providers globally – everyone wins through an accessible and open network.
- For Lenders: The cost of collecting and verifying information about borrowers in emerging markets is too high and the process too difficult (due to the bank’s need for documented credit histories). This means lenders miss out on trillions of dollars of lending globally..
- For Data Providers: Data providers gain when their clients (small businesses) grow. Today they lack an efficient, ethical way of monetizing the data they collect on these clients, to be able to unlock financing. Forming bilateral partnerships with lenders is slow and risky.
- For Borrowers: Most borrowers in emerging markets, with no official credit history or traditional financial documentation, are invisible to the traditional lending system and are thus forced to operate in the “informal sector,” borrowing from friends, family and local moneylenders at a high cost.
What tips would you give to others looking to build their business?
I’ve learned that the three most important keys to success with a tech venture are timing, cashflow, and building a team you can trust. Good timing means not getting swept up in the hype around where trends are pointing, and getting into the market before substantial demand exists. Cashflow is critical for obvious reasons, but is all the more important in tech: markets develop slower than one expects and competition emerges more quickly. Lastly, tech businesses grow fast — the work outpaces a founder’s reach rapidly. A team that can operate independently with full trust gives one the leverage needed to fully seize the opportunity.
Tell us about your team?
We have a team with extensive and robust experience in banking, fintech, mobile, and emerging markets. LendLedger was founded by Gautam Ivatury and Manish Khera, passionate pioneers in digital finance and financial inclusion, and co-founders of Happy Loans in India. LendLedger are also a founding signatory of the Declaration on Responsible Digital Financial Services. Both Gautam and Manish bring years of global experience in banking and financial services in emerging markets in leadership/advisory positions for companies like SKS Microfinance, Microsoft, the World Bank, and the Airtel Payments Bank.
Together, Gautam and LendLedger co-founder, Manish Khera have decades of experience working with large financial institutions to transform how they connect to ever-growing pools of data, and transact with borrowers.
What are your plans for the future?
Right now we are focused on what decentralization can do for the informal sector and microfinance space. The network will be live, starting in Q4.
After our token generation event, we expect the first partner to be Happy Loans in India, quickly followed by LendLedger partnerships in Myanmar, Kenya, Nigeria and other large markets. For a small set of loans, the contracting, disbursement, and repayment will occur through the protocol and use the LOANtoken digital asset. Other portions of the protocol (e.g. data exchange, credit evaluation) will still function in a centralized fashion until a subsequent milestone. (Milestone 1 is a validation of the on-chain portions of the protocol).
Our full roadmap can be viewed in our Technical Paper https://lendledger.io/images/LendLedger_TechPaper.pdf?pdf=LendLedger%20Tech%20Paper
Anything else you’d like to add?
Bitcoin gets lots of attention but for me the real opportunity is to change how industries work using blockchain and tokenization, to solve global problems. LendLedger is only one example, specific to financial inclusion. But today so many people face basic challenges to human progress: identity (proving who I am), ownership (recording what I own), and experience (what I’ve done). Records on blockchain will solve this for the world, and will also be applied to the environment, agriculture, healthcare, education — to make these industries more efficient and inclusive.
How do people get in touch with you?
For more information about the project, interested parties may visit us at https://www.lendledger.io/. To receive presale information and sign up for our whitelist, please visit http://lendledgersale.io/presale.html.